Monday, October 19, 2020
Reading: Exodus 40:34-38
 
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  - Exodus 40:34a 
 
If you've been camping you would know that a tent is a temporary dwelling. You pitch a tent, take up stakes, and then move along. The tabernacle of the Lord was like this. It went along with the people of Israel on their journey through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. It was never meant to be a permanent place of worship but a dwelling for the Lord that traveled with the people.  
 
The tabernacle was a symbol of the presence of God who dwelt wherever they would pitch their tent. It was a powerful reminder to the people of Israel that God dwelt with his people. God could not be contained or confined in one place. It was only when King David had the temple built, to make a house of the Lord, that the people of Israel contained the presence of God in what was called the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum where God dwelt.
 
As Christians, we have taken on this same sense of housing God in a permanent structure which we call the church. This is why we call the space that is reserved for worship a sanctuary.  There is no Holy of Holies in church architecture but the chancel where the altar stands comes close. The church building is important because it provides a space for regular worship, fellowship, and learning.
 
It is when we become too tied to the church building that we begin to loose sense that the church is actually a holy people whereby the presence of God goes with us wherever we go. Like the people of Israel, we too, journey through a wilderness. It isn't literally a wilderness, but the world in which we live is still filled with some of the same challenges, trials, dangers, and temptations that the people of Israel faced in their wilderness wanderings. It's a comfort to know that God goes wherever we find ourselves. God's presence strengthens and supports us in our life of faith. 
 
Let us pray: As your promised presence goes with us wherever we find ourselves, come dwell within our hearts and minds bringing us comfort and peace. In your holy name we pray. Amen.  
Posted By: 10/18/2020 10:48:27 PM

Sunday, October 18, 2020
Reading: Matthew 22:15-22 
 
Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's and to God the things that are God's."  
- Matthew 22:21b 
 
Jesus isn't trying to get those who are hearing these words of his to start dividing up those things that belong to the emperor and the things that belong to God. He is using the illustration of a coin, with the image of the emperor upon it, to demonstrate to his listeners that since the image of the emperor is on the coin that it belongs to the emperor. Where it gets a bit tricky is when he tells his listeners to give to God the things that belong to God.
 
Too often, we want to divide up that which belongs to the emperor and that which belongs to God. "God, I'll give you an hour on Sunday morning, no more, no less. But the remainder of the week belongs to me." God can have Sunday but you better not mess around with the remainder of the week that belongs to me. It's only when we begin to think a bit deeper about whose image or likeness is imprinted on us that we start to realize that we have been created in God's image, after God's likeness. God created me and all that exists. Therefore, I belong to God. I do not belong to myself, nor do the six days out the the week belong to me either. They have all been given to me and all others as a gracious gift by a generous God. 
 
It is when we start living in the realm that everything that we have and all that we are belongs to God, that we then begin to know what it means to live in God's kingdom. But we want to have a sense of ownership about things: time, the possessions we have, and the money that is in our bank accounts. But in essence, it all is God's.
 
If we begin to see that we, indeed, have been created in God's image, then it follows that we see that everyone else in the world has God's image imprinted upon them as well. But we want to limit this don't we. We want to say that only certain people are made in the image of God, especially those who are "most like us." It is when we fail to see that everyone is made in the image of God whereby racism is present, xenophobia exists, and prejudices of all kinds are pervasive.  It is only when we embrace the belief that everyone is created in God's image, and live it out, that we truly experience what it means to be part of the kingdom or reign of God. 
 
Let us pray: You have created us in your image, O God. Open our eyes to see that you have created all people in your image. Amen.  
Posted By: 10/17/2020 4:33:57 PM

Saturday, October 17, 2020
Reading: Psalm 96:1-9 
 
Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD all the earth.  - Psalm 96:1 
 
Since the spread of COVID-19, singing has been greatly discouraged, especially in larger groups of people. Scientists have shown that singing could spread droplets much more quickly and in much greater amount than through merely speaking. The guidelines that have been given to churches through the ELCA and our own NE MN Synod office has therefore discouraged singing at any in-person gatherings. 
 
Unfortunately, singing is an extremely important part of our worship as Lutheran Christians. We now have 3-5 individuals lead the singing in our livestream service and have limited the singing to a cantor in our in-person worship gatherings on Sunday mornings. As wonderful as these voices have been in leading the singing, it simply is not the same as the entire congregation joining together in song in one place. 
 
The psalmist declares, "sing to the Lord all the earth." We're not just talking about a single congregation here. We're talking about the whole of creation joining together in song. It has been difficult to contend with the Lord's song being squelched because of the pandemic. We may even feel as though we don't want to worship without being able to sing. But look at what else the psalmist declares, "Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day." 
 
Let us not loose sight of why we sing the LORD's song in the first place. It isn't solely for our own enjoyment or edification. We sing the Lord a new song to declare the praises of his salvation that he has given to us each day. It is to declare his marvelous works among the nations. Not even a pandemic can totally silence the song to the Lord. It continues in new and various ways - through the air waves of modern technology that has reached more people than we can imagine. It spreads through livestreaming and on YouTube channels across the world. When you think of it - in a very real sense - it does seem like a new song that is being sung to the Lord.  
 
Let us pray: You have blessed us with voices to sing your praise, O Lord. You have made us to be creative in declaring your praise and lauding your works in ways beyond our imagining. Amen. 
Posted By: 10/15/2020 4:06:55 PM

Friday, October 16, 2020
Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-5 
 
And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  - 1 Peter 5:5b 
 
Pastor Rick Warren in his bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For, writes, "True Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." 
 
Rick Warren is correct about what true humility is or is not. Conversely, prideful people are those who are constantly thinking about themselves while thinking about others much less than themselves or even not at all. You can tell a person is proud, in the sense that he or she lacks humility, when that person builds him or herself up by putting others down, and make claims that are overly inflated. A proud person gives others the sense that he or she truly cares about you, but in actuality only cares for himself or herself. 
 
I'm sure that we know of some proud people and even some personally. It's difficult to be around them because they exude an ego that is larger than life in which others around them feel quite inferior. The proud boldly exacts power over others to the point that others are made to believe that they should be honored to be in their presence.  The proud do not know the meaning of humility or how integral it truly is with regards to our relationship with others.
 
When we read that we are to be clothed with humility in our dealings with one another, the writer makes it sound like it is something that we don't already have, that's already a part of who we are. We have to put it on, like a garment that we were not wearing previously. To clothe ourselves with humility actually means, however, something that is already part of who we are as human beings. We just need to be reminded of it from time to time.  As human beings we are "humus," part of the earth, from which God made us, which puts us in our place. Humility "grounds" us in the notion that as human beings we ought not to think of ourselves more highly than others. As human beings we are made to live in relationship with one another and live our lives in mutual respect. 
 
Let us pray: O God, by your Spirit that moves within me, may I cast aside all pride and be clothed with humility in my relationship with others. Amen.  
Posted By: 10/15/2020 1:04:48 PM

Thursday, October 15, 2020
Reading: 3 John 9-12 
 
Believe, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. - 3 John 11 
 
Good verses evil. It sounds like the stuff of movies, like Star Wars. Luke Skywalker verses Darth Vader. It makes for a good plot, and keeps viewers engaged in the story. The stuff of movies, however, is taken from what is known and experienced in real life. When we think about the good that we have encountered, our minds take us to a dear aunt or a beloved patriarch or matriarch of the church. They are kind and generous and don't have a mean bone in their body. And perhaps we like to think of ourselves as being good, or at least aspire to do better with our lives. 
 
Evil is another matter. It's simple enough to point out evil when we we see it; the Hitlers and Stalins of the world. And we see the evil that is perpetrated by hate groups that lash out at others because they are "different."  Or we point out evil when we see it played out through abuse of all sorts. But the evil that lurks in the shadows of our being may be another thing altogether. We just assume keep it hidden or lie to ourselves that it simply isn't there, not an ounce of it. 
 
The binary presence of good and evil I think exists in us all to some extent. Good and evil manifests itself by our actions, in what we do. We can be imitators of God and do good or we can imitate evil by doing things that are bad. And how do we know if we are doing one or the other? According to the writer of the third letter of John, it is those who have seen God or know God who can tell the difference. For once you have seen good, you will also know what evil looks like - for it is the opposite of good - it doesn't look like good. But for those who have not seen God will not know what good looks like and only reside in that which is evil. The goodness of God is all about life and liveliness and looking out for what is good in others. Evil, on the other hand, is self-consuming which resides in the darkness of destruction and death. It is, in other words, death-dealing. 
 
God help us to do that which is good and shun that which is evil. For it is truly by God's hand that we are led to do good and cast aside that which is evil.
 
Let us pray: God, through your goodness, lead us into your Light and Salvation in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Posted By: 10/14/2020 6:05:27 PM

Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Reading: John 6:25-35 
 
"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal."  - John 6:27 
 
The old cliche is true that "we work to put bread on the table."  We work in order to eat, to have a roof over our heads, to pay the bills and to help put our kids through college. The need to work so that we can survive is an age-old one that started from the beginning of time and will continue until the end of time. 
 
Jesus had just feed the five thousand and the crowd that has been fed are following Jesus, clamoring for more. Jesus escapes from the demanding crowd to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They find him there also, saying, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answers them, "Truly, I tell you, you're looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you had your fill of bread. Don't work for food that perishes, but for the food that will endure for eternal life." Jesus is directing them to look beyond their bellies, beyond their immediate needs, and discover a "life-giving bread" that will endure forever. Jesus is that bread in which those who come to him will never be hungry again. 
 
We can't help but think about the Last Supper and Jesus sharing the final meal with his disciples and takes the bread and says to them, "This is my body given for you." Jesus shares himself in the most profound way by dying on the cross, his body broken for us. The Bread of Life has given himself away to bring us closer to God and to one another in love. Our sins are forgiven and we are set free to live out the purpose of loving God and loving others more fully. 
 
We can so easily get caught up in the day-to-day routine of our work as we seek to have our fill of bread to eat. But life is much more than this, Jesus is telling us. It is about having a lasting relationship with God through him, and about extending his love for us toward others so that we may live in harmony with one another. 
 
Let us pray: Give us, O God, the bread that will endure forever, your Son, the Bread of Life, who gave himself freely in love, in order that we may love one another. Amen.  
 
 
Posted By: 10/13/2020 9:50:55 AM

Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Reading:  Amos 9:5-15
 
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. - Amos 9:14 
 
Amos was a prophet of the 8th century B.C. who foretold the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel. In verses 11-15 of chapter 9 the prophet gives a vision of a future restoration of the people of Israel. God will "restore her fortunes" and "rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them." The mention of the vineyards that will be planted and the people enjoying its fruit is a symbol of Israel celebrating a time of renewal after her destruction. 
 
COVID-19 has wrought a lot of destruction. People have lost their jobs, businesses have had to close their doors. People who have lost their employment are anxiously wondering how they are going to put food on the table. The economy in our country and throughout the world has tanked and there is no clear vision of when it will recover. Tension and anxiety are running high and cases of mental illness has skyrocketed. 
 
As if the virus itself has not brought about enough destruction, our country has had to face the devastating effects of multiple hurricanes, more than any other time in our history. Wildfires have destroyed countless acres of land and scorched to the ground hundreds of homes. People by the hundreds have become displaced. The fires continue to rage. 
 
Amos' vision of restoration is a hopeful reminder to us that there will be a time when things will be better as we will see signs of life emerge along the way. The resurrection of our Lord has revealed to us that life is more powerful than destruction and death. The God who created us and all things is intent on bringing about life and growth, even while we are in the midst of those things that threaten to undo God's good will for all of creation. 
 
Let us pray: Restore us, O God! Breathe into us your life-giving presence as we seek renewal. Amen.  
Posted By: 10/12/2020 9:59:18 AM

Monday, October 12, 2020
Reading: Psalm 34 
 
I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. - Psalm 34:4 
 
We all have fears. It is part of our human condition from which we cannot escape. But this doesn't mean that fear is always a bad thing. Fear can be a good thing, as it trips the "reactive" reptilian part of our brain for the sake of survival. Fear can give us the adrenaline rush that we need to get out of difficult situations. It is when fear becomes our basic mode of operation, however, that it becomes a bad thing. 
 
It is when fear overwhelms us, immobilizes us, and takes over our lives that we need to step back and evaluate why it has such a hold on us. Years ago, I was introduced to a very helpful book called, "A New Rational Guide to Living." It helped me to realize that I have the power to reflect on my fears, so that I may concentrate on being more rational and less reactive. I was able to dispel the fears that I had. My mind would take me to places I didn't need to go, fantasizing about things that would take me to the worse possible scenario. Such fears are certainly irrational and can have a paralyzing affect on us. 
 
But we all know that there are some very real fears - those in which we are truly feeling threatened. These are the kinds of fears that the psalmist is writing about. It is in the midst of such fears as these that we are invited to turn to God. God can not only calm us by his presence and give us the assurance that he hears our pleas for help, but God can and will deliver us from feeling captive to those enemies of which we are afraid. God redeems our lives from the pit of fear and despair. Thanks be to God. 
 
Let us pray: Dear Lord, you know our fears are many. Calm us by your presence and deliver us from all our fears that afflict us. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.  
Posted By: 10/10/2020 11:30:41 AM

Sunday, October 11, 2020
Reading: Matthew 22:1-14 
 
For many are called, but few are chosen. - Matthew 22:14
 
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus to understand. The king is holding a wedding banquet for his son. He sends out slaves to call those who were invited to come, but they don't want to come. So the king sends them out again, instructing the slaves to try to entice the guests by telling them that they're going to miss out on a delectable feast so they're not going to want to miss out. But they make light of it and go off doing other things, like farming and attending to a business. The guests then get violent, mistreat, and kill the slaves. The king retaliates by being violent with them in return. 
 
The king then sends out his slaves a third time to invite anyone they can find off the street to attend the banquet. Now comes a strange little twist. The king sees a guest who isn't wearing the proper attire, a wedding robe, and has the guest expelled and "thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." The parable ends with Jesus' words, "For many are called, but few are chosen." 
 
Jesus' parable is an indictment against the religious leaders who had rejected the prophets sent before him. Jesus is cryptically telling his audience that he is ushering in a new kingdom in which others whom the scribes and the Pharisees rejected, are the very ones who are now part of the kingdom of God. Unlikely folks will take the place of "the usual suspects." 
 
Apparently, if you refuse to put on the proper clothes for the wedding, you will be cast out. The new attire, is not literally a wedding robe, but putting on or taking on, the cloak of God's new way of doing things through Jesus. The religious world in which the scribes and the Pharisees are judged according to the law, because they were ones to uphold the law, is turned upside down, as God introduces through Jesus a new world based on God's grace. 
 
We are all part of a priesthood of believers who are called to live in the realm of God's grace. Just because we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, it doesn't mean that we will not reject it. We may still chose to be captive to the law and not live by grace that God has offered to us in Jesus Christ. As we are called to the banquet of the Son, will we willingly accept the invitation of the King, and will we gladly put on God's garment of grace?
 
Let us pray: May we gladly accept the invitation of the King to sit at his table of grace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray. Amen. 
Posted By: 10/10/2020 10:47:24 AM

Saturday, October 10, 2020
Reading: Isaiah 24:17-23 
 
For the windows of heaven are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble.  - Isaiah 24:18b 
 
There is a hint of apocalyptic language evident in this passage in Isaiah. There is certainly a prophesy of destruction of Judah  for her transgressions.  The windows of heaven being opened and the foundations of the earth is trembling are indicative of some climatic turbulence of flooding and earthquakes taking place. We're talking about unsetting times for the nation of Judah who are facing the consequences of turning away from the Lord. 
 
We can see some remnant of the story of Noah (Genesis 7:11) revealed in this passage, of floodgates of the sky being opened when it rained upon the earth for 40 days and 40 nights. But the window of heaven being opened also reveals the God's intervening presence upon the people who have strayed. The foundations of the earth trembling is also a sign of God's presence being displayed in displeasure of how his people have strayed. 
 
All of this points biblically to the Almighty's hand bringing forth destruction upon the earth as a consequence of God's displeasure over his people's decision to stay from God's ways. We cannot help but attempt to translate this into the modern day events of fires in the west and the hurricanes in the east that we are now going through as a nation. It all seems apocalyptic in nature doesn't it? We can interpret what is happening as a sign of God's displeasure for what is going on in our world right now. The transgression at hand and its consequence is how we have neglected and offended the balance of nature itself. We have wantonly abused God's creation by polluting the land and the air. 
 
From the very beginning humankind has been called by God to be caretakers of the earth and all that lies therein. But time and time again we have misused our calling of having "dominion over the earth" as a license to misuse and abuse the good gift of God's creation.  For the health of the inhabitants of the earth and for future generations we have to take action now in taking our biblical mandate seriously that God has called us to be good stewards of the earth. 
 
Let us pray; O Lord, you have called us to take care of the earth that is yours and not our's to do with as we please. Make us good stewards of all with which you have entrusted us: the land, the water, and the air. Amen.  
Posted By: 10/9/2020 10:28:18 PM

Friday, October 9, 2020
Reading: James 4:4-10 
 
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  - James 4:7 
 
You may recall the comedian Flip Wison back in the '70's who popularized the catchphrase, "The Devil made me do it!" He put on women's clothes and played a character named Geraldine who would say, "The Devil made me buy this dress!"  Wilson's sketch minimized the devil through his popular comedy routine. It was funny! I can't tell you the number of times that I've borrowed Flip Wilson's phrase, "The Devil made me do it," or the number of times I've heard others use it over the years. 
 
It's certainly okay to laugh about or even at the devil. It's when we "flippantly" (pun intended) dismiss the devil that perhaps may have a real hold on us is when we get in trouble. The devil, in which the world "evil" is incorporated into it, is the personification of evil. The devil makes evil real or tangible. I don't think that the image of the devil in a red outfit carrying around a pitchfork and has horns and wears a sinister smile on his face is altogether helpful. I just imagine Flip Wilson in that silly costume doing his comedy sketch. Evil, however, is very real in the world and can take on many forms and can often be quite subtle and cunning.
 
This Sunday there are eight young men and women from our church who will be affirming their faith through the rite of confirmation. Part of the confimation service includes what is called he renunciation in which the confirmand is asked, "Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God, the powers of this world that rebel against God, and the ways of sin that draw you from God?' to which they are to respond, "I renounce them."
 
It is all these things together that separate us from God: evil, the powers of this world, and our sin. We therefore pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." We can publicly renounce the things that draw us away from, rebel against, and defy God but without turning to God and crying out to God to help us, we remain powerless.  Evil is real and can even take hold of us, which is why we need to be congnizant of it and pray that God deliver us from it. 
 
Let us pray: Deliver us from evil, O God. By your Spirit's power, may we submit completely to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.  
Posted By: 10/8/2020 10:25:52 AM

Thursday, October 8, 2020
Reading: Psalm 23 
 
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.          - Psalm 23:4 
 
Have you ever wondered from this beloved psalm what a rod and a staff are and what they are used for exactly. In Old Testament times, the staff could be a walking stick or some kind of support to give rest and to guide. A shepherd may use a staff to lean on or as a support to lean on in case the ground is rocky or not stable. For us, it can serve as a symbol that we can find rest in the Lord to lean on him when we are feeling weary.
 
The staff was also used as a guide to lead sheep across open fields or along rocky hillsides. The staff leads us to places where we can find peace and restoration amide the chaos in life. The staff can also lead us on the paths where we should go as we make difficult decisions in life and we look for the Lord's wisdom. 
 
The rod is for our protection. For the shepherd the rod had a crook at the end of a staff used to pull sheep out from dangerous situations. The rod was also used to defend the sheep against predators. Both the staff and the rod are used by the shepherd but are symbolic of God's support, guidance, and protection in our lives. God as our shepherd seeks to watch over us in times of trouble or danger when we have strayed or when an enemy seeks to threaten or destroy us. 
 
Let us pray: God, our Shepherd, we your sheep often stray or find ourselves in trouble. Lead us on the right paths for your names' sake. Amen.  
Posted By: 10/7/2020 6:47:56 PM

Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Reading: John 11:45-57 
 
So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council and said, "What are we to do? This man is performing many signs.  - John 11:47 
 
Have you ever thought of Jesus as a threat? We usually don't regard Jesus as a threat, but maybe sometimes we should. I think that we find ways to tame Jesus, making him to be the Jesus we want him to be and not the Jesus that he really is as he is revealed in scripture. Have we domesticated Jesus to support our particular piety? Has Jesus become merely our own "personal Lord and Savior" at the expense of him being the Lord and  Savior of everyone else, especially those we believe are not deserving of him to be their Savior.  
 
Jesus hung around with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors, the dregs of society. They were the one's whom the religious establishment had regarded as being beyond the pale of society. Who are those we'd consider unacceptable and untouchable? Our lists may vary, but we each have our own list, don't we? I have to confess that I have my list. As I look at my list I wonder, "Lord, how is it that you can love them? They are unjust and cruel and believe that they are a people of privilege, above everybody else. They step on others in order to gain more power for themselves. They look at the color of people's skin and make judgements accordingly. They want to moralize society, while at the same time are corrupt themselves. 
 
I know that I have to be careful here. I am under the same standard of judgement as anyone else. I have no right to attempt to usurp (as if I could) God's reign of grace and mercy. Jesus is a threat. He looks at me and bids me to consider the log in my own eye before looking at the speck in my neighbor's eye. Humble me, Lord. Help me to love my neighbor, even while I may despise or deplore him. For your love always wins over disagreement and disapproval.
 
Let us pray: May my heart always be in the right place, O Lord. May I see with the eyes of Jesus as I look at the world more with kindness and mercy than with judgement and scorn. Set me on the path or your righteousness. Amen. 
 
 
Posted By: 10/5/2020 3:43:21 PM

Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Reading: Psalm 144 
 
O LORD, what are human beings that you regard them, or mortals that you would think of them? They are like breath; their days are like a passing shadow. - Psalm 144:3-4 
 
It boggles the mind to think that God, the Creator of the universe, would be mindful of us. God, is yet, keenly interested in us and wants to intimately be involved in our lives on a personal level. God already knows our "comings and our goings" and yet wants us to be in continual communion with him. All of this, because of God's great love for us. 
 
When two people fall in love they desire to know everything there is to know about one another. The two who have fallen in love decide that they want to commit themselves to each other in a covenant of marriage. Their love deepens when in the course of time they learn things about each other that may be unwanted, such as, annoying habits, or learn of a tarnished part of their history, and yet they continue to love each other. 
 
God's love is like this, and even more profound than this. God's love for us remains even as God knows us, and yet, still accepts us. God knows us better than we know ourselves and still regards us and thinks of us. God is so amazing that he still cares for us, even while we are sinners and reveal our "less than perfect" selves time and time again. How can this be? It's not because we are so lovable or so deserving of such devotion to us by our God. It must be because that is simply who God is - loving us still, in spite of our failings and shortcomings. It is the very character of God to love - God can do no other. 
 
Let us pray: O Lord, how is it that you are mindful of us and care for us, even while we are sinners? We thank you for your unfailing love in our lives. Amen.  
 
 
Posted By: 10/5/2020 3:25:49 PM

Monday, October 5, 2020
Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-10 
 
Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  - 1 Peter 2:5 
 
One of my favorite Bible camp songs is "The Church Song." The refrain and first stanza goes like this: We are the church, the body of our Lord; we are all God's children. We have been restored. The church is not a building where people go to pray; it's not make out of sticks and stones, it's not made out of clay." This song is an important reminder to us that the church is a people not a building. 
 
As the writer of this verse from 1 Peter reminds also us, we are living stones, a holy priesthood, in which we are built into a spiritual house. As "living stones" we are built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, who is the cornerstone of our faith. The church as a people gives us a dimension involving relationships which an inanimate building could never offer. 
 
In this time of COVID-19, we are reminded that the church is a people wherever we find ourselves. We are not and cannot all gather at this time in our sanctuary space for worship. We've discovered during this time that we are also a church which has been gathering for worship virtually via a livestream service. We've learned that even as a pandemic may separate us that we are not separated, we are still the church, and nothing in all of creation will be able to snatch that away from us. 
 
Even in death, we yet celebrate as the church through the communion of saints. Each time that we gather in-person or virtually, the whole host of saints gather with us. I like to think that whenever we celebrate Holy Communion, those who have gone before us are yet gathered with us as the communion of saints. I like to think that there is this unending thread of the faithful, in which we are united together in each time and place - God's own people. 
 
Let us pray: We rejoice, O God, that you call us to be as living stones, built into a spiritual household, as your own people. Amen.  
Posted By: 10/1/2020 6:46:40 PM

Sunday, October 4, 2020
Reading: Matthew 21:33-46 
 
"Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom." - Matthew 21:33-46
 
The image of the vineyard is a common biblical theme which symbolizes the people of Israel. Included in that image is the concern that the people produce the fruits of the vineyard. Those fruits would have to do with the way in which the Israelites treated their people, especially those most vulnerable, such as, the widowed, the orphaned, and the poor in their midst. Most importantly, God was concerned about those with religious authority, and the fruits that they produced. Prophets arose in the land, annointed by the Spirit of God, for the purpose of being God's voice of concern for the most vulnerable in their society and how they were treated. 
 
In Galatians we read about the specific fruits of the Spirit. There are nine of them: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). We are each given these fruits, in order to share the love of God in Jesus Christ. We don't each have all the fruits but we are each blessed with some of these in combination. Like the people of Israel, we are expected by God to produce fruit. When we don't, we neglect our calling as workers in God's vineyard of God's kingdom. When we don't share love, patience, and kindness, for instance, if we are given such gifts from God, we are acting out of selfishness. 
 
The prophetic voice didn't die with the prophets of old, it still exists today. it is the same voice of God that cries out for justice and mercy when God's people are being oppressed, abused, or taken advantage of in any way by those who are powerful. God's voice speaks within each of us to do the right thing, by using our gifts to share God's love with others, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
 
Let us pray: O Lord, you have given each of us gifts that come from your Spirit to share, so that all may come to know your love; in Jesus' name. Amen.  
 
Posted By: 10/1/2020 4:43:37 PM

Saturday, October 3, 2020
Reading: John 7:40-52 
 
But some asked, "Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he?"  - John 7:41b 
 
To comprehend what is meant by the above verse, one needs some background information concerning Galilee compared with the southern province of Judea. Ever since the Assyrian conquest in the eighth century B.C. the region that was Galilee had a racially mixed population which would have been looked upon with scorn by the more homogeneous group of Jewish people in the south.
 
Geographically, Galilee was separated from Judea by the non-Jewish territory of Samaria. Politically, Galilee would have been under a separate administration from Judea and in the time of Jesus it was under a native prince, while Judea and Samaria had been under the direct rule of a Roman prefect. Culturally, Judeans dispised their northern neighbors as "country bumpkins" who lacked their Judean sophistication. Religiously, the Judean opinion was that Galileans were lax in their observance of proper ritual, which was compounded by the distance of Galilee from the temple in Jerusalem. 
 
As you can see, there was a distinct prejudice that the Judeans had against Galileans.  You may recall the scene involving Nathanael concerning Jesus of Nazareth, from the lower part of the region of Galilee in which he said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46). What did he mean by that? What he meant by it was that he saw Nazareth as a rural, backwater, sort of place. 
 
We all have our own prejudices, I'm afraid: political, geographical, ethnic, ethic, religious, and otherwise. I'm thinking that God has a sense of humor. The Messiah comes from the very place and people that was so despised by those who believed that everything should be kept "pure" and "orthodox."  In Christ, God certainly changed things up to disrupt the established rule of things. Jesus shakes up our "pre-judged" notion of how we think things ought to be like. In Jesus, God reveals God's nature of having created diversity which leads all to embracing inclusivity. 
 
Let us pray:  O God, who made us all, may I reflect your grace in my life as I approach others who are in anyway different from me. Amen. 
Posted By: 10/1/2020 4:07:46 PM

Friday, October 2, 2020
Reading: Philippians 2:14-18 
 
Do all things without murmuring and arguing. - Philippians 2:14 
 
It's hard not to murmur or argue about things these days in the midst of COVID-19 and a presidential election year. It's all  converging all at once. It all seems a bit surreal or even, dare I say, apocalyptic. Pandemic problems galore! The number of cases keep going up as well as the number of deaths. Schools going stir-crazy, not knowing which way to turn. Businesses closing, opening up, only to close again. Dealing with the ongoing national feud about masks or no masks. Wild fires in the west and hurricanes in the east. A nation divided, the likes we have not experienced since the great Civil War. 
 
The fact that Paul is mentioning in his letter to the Philippian church about how they should not murmur or argue, reveals to us that this is an age-old problem in which nothing much has changed. It's our human nature to murmur and argue. Let's face it, we have a hard time being content about things or getting along with one another. I think that this is especially true whenever there is conflict. 
 
Even when things were going better we were still murmuring and arguing. When the Hebrews were delivered from their slavery at their oppressor's hand, the Egyptians, they complained. They were thinking about the fleshpots in Egypt while they were "starving" in the wilderness. Apparently they'd forgotten how God saved them from the Egyptians. They murmured the whole 40 years while they were wandering in the wilderness, not satisfied that they were a chosen people who were on a journey to a promised place in which to live. 
 
We so easily forget, in the midst of hardships that we face, how the hand of God has delivered us in the past. God has been present for us, even when we did not see him or feel his presence. God has saved us and guided us by his gracious hand along life's way. Let us, therefore, put all murmuring aside as well as arguing and any blame. But let us rejoice in his promises which abound. 
 
Let us pray: Teach us to count the many ways your hand has saved us in the past, so that we may look to a future with hope that only you can give, in Jesus' name. Amen.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
Posted By: 10/1/2020 3:16:44 PM

Thursday, October 1, 2020
Reading: Psalm 19
 
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you. O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
 - Psalm 19:14 
 
I grew up going to Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. As a child I was impressed by the massive sanctuary and in awe of the choir. I can vividly recall the choir singing a call to worship in the back of the sanctuary to these words of Psalm 19:14. The singing set the tone for a celebratory worship. I also can recall the pastor using these same words when he would ascend the pulpit before he preached. It set the tone for a proclamatory word in preaching.
 
Although I can recall these words to mind, both in singing and in preaching, I think that these words of the psalmist can be called upon most any time, not only in worship.  To plead to God to accept the words that we speak and the motives of our heart   I believe would put us on the right path in life. So often we go our own way, thinking that we know best. Why do we need to call upon the Lord? Why do we need to seek God's counsel? Why? Because we know too well where the path of life leads us when we go our own way - it leads to selfishness and self-centeredness. It sometimes leads to our own demise. 
 
I've never heard anybody say, "If only I would have relied on the Lord less, I would be far better off." We know the lie. It is when we regret our actions or words once spoken that cannot be taken back, when we say, "If only I would have listened to myself less and been attentive to the Lord more, I would have gained my life." And yet, God is forgiving, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love," as he takes us by the hand and lifts us up with forgiveness.    
 
Let us pray: O Lord, my rock and my redeemer, may my words and my actions each day be acceptable to you. Forgive me when I have failed. And lift me up out of the dust that is my sin. Amen.  
Posted By: 9/30/2020 10:44:09 PM

Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Reading: Matthew 9:2-8 
 
And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed many lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."  - Matthew 9:2
 
I am a big proponent of holistic health. What I mean by that is that I believe that we are an interconnected whole, made up of body, mind, and spirit. All three have to be healthy and working in sync with one another for us to be whole and to function well. If my mind is troubled about something, I'm going to stress out about it. That stress will have an affect on me physically. I am gong to feel tired and act sluggish. If I am having to deal with a physical ailment, especially if it is chronic, it will be wearing on my mind and my spirit. If I harbor ill feelings of guilt and remorse, that too, will have an affect on my whole person. 
 
Why didn't Jesus just say to the man who was paralyzed to stand up and walk, right away, instead of "Your sins are forgiven."
Jesus always has a plan. Jesus wanted to bring healing to the man holistically. He wanted to treat the whole person. But also it was about Jesus demonstrating his authority to the scribes who were grumbling about him, that he didn't have the authority to forgive sins. They believed that only God could forgive sins. 
 
Whenever we are burdened by a sin that we cannot fully let go of, guilt seeps into our conscience and it occupies our minds. But as the sin wears on us through guilt, so it drains us emotionally, But there is nothing more physically exhausting than being emotionally drained. But the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus is that he cares about our whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Thank God that our Lord knows our needs better than we ourselves and cares enough to help bring healing to our whole being.
 
Let us pray: Lord, may we look to you, the Great Physician to bring healing and wholeness in our lives. Heal us in body, mind, and spirit in your name we pray. Amen.  
Posted By: 9/29/2020 11:27:52 PM

Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Reading: Psalm 42 
 
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.  - Psalm 42:5 
 
What does a cast down soul look like? It looks like a person who is experiencing depression. It looks like someone who has lost  someone they loved. It looks like a person who has disappointed another and wonders if he can ever be forgiven. It looks like someone who has been penned up by the pandemic and feeling quite alone. It looks like a mother who is on her last dime and doesn't know where to turn. It looks like a man who has just lost his job and wonders what tomorrow will bring. It looks like a teenager who doesn't feel like she fits in with her peers and feels isolated. 
 
There are the many faces of a cast down soul. There are too many more to count them all and some of them is us. When we are ill at ease, when we are feeling disturbed or cannot find peace we look to something to hold onto, something which will give us hope. 
 
For the psalmist, hope is in God to whom the psalmist looks for help. Time and time again we hear throughout the Bible that God is with us. We may not always actually feel as though God is near but God is as close to us as our very breath. God is there to quiet our cast down souls and give us peace.  
 
Let us pray: O God you are my help when my soul is cast down. Lift me up so that I may sing a song of your praise. Amen.  
Posted By: 9/28/2020 5:27:13 PM

Monday, September 28, 2020
Reading:  Psalm 28
 
To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, do not refuse to hear me, for if you are silent to me, I shall be like those who go down to the Pit. - Psalm 28:1 
 
The image of God as a rock is a familiar one in scripture. God is seen as a solid foundation, firm and steadfast, immovable, strong and indestructible,  There are, in fact, 59 Bible verses about God, The Rock. This image is so frequent in scripture because rocks would have been quite common and familiar to the hearers. Rocks were part of the common everyday scenery in the Middle East. 
 
This past summer I moved a lot of rock in our yard. Rocks were lining all the shrubbery and gardens in the front yard. We decided to move them so that it would be easier to mow the lawn. It proved to be quite a project, moving these heavy rocks one at a time, and either bringing them to our back yard or to the neighbor's yard, as she wanted to use them for her gardens. I gained a new appreciation, if you can call it that, of rocks and how heavy and strong and immovable they are. I had a sore back to prove it. 
 
From the psalmist's words we can gain a different kind of appreciation for rocks or for The Rock. The psalmist is looking to God's steadfastness as he laments. The psalmist is looking for God as the very foundation of his faith, to whom he can turn in time of trouble. 
 
I cannot tell you the number of times in ministry that I've heard someone say of a loved one who has died, "He was a rock or she was my rock." These persons whom they knew and loved were foundational in their lives. That person who died, who was that rock in life, was the one that could be counted on when things got rough. We can be counted as blessed if we've had such "rocks" in our lives. They are the ones we looked to when times got tough. 
 
As we look to God as The Rock in our lives, we have the assurance that God's steadfast love is immovable, whose very presence we count on when life gets difficult. We all have moments in which. like the psalmist, we lament and need a listening ear and a caring presence to help see us through. 
 
Let us pray: Hear me, O Lord, when I cry to you. Lend your ear to my supplication. You are indeed my rock, the very foundation of my life when I am troubled. Amen.  
Posted By: 9/24/2020 2:57:06 PM

Sunday, September 27, 2020
Reading: Philippians 2:1-13 
 
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  - Philippians 2:3 
 
I don't think that Paul is suggesting here that we put ourselves down or let others walk all over us and use us. I don't think that our self-esteem is at stake either when Paul tells us that we are to regard others as better than ourselves. What I think Paul is saying here is that we ought not to think too highly of ourselves. Part of being conceited often means putting others down. We are not to think too lowly of ourselves either. Perhaps what Paul is really saying here is that we ought not put a whole lot of effort in thinking of ourselves.   
 
This is one of the main problems in our society today. We are thinking too much about the "self." The commercialization of  our culture has told us that it's all about "me" and less about "we." And so, we pamper ourselves, justifying our self-indulgence, at the expense of practicing the admonition that we hear in Philippians, "Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." 
 
The reason we should do this, Paul says, is that we are to be of "the same mind that is in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form, humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death." 
 
This isn't an easy thing to do, mind you. For we are being called upon to not only fight against our overly-commercialized culture in which we live but to also fight against our very selves - our inner nature which is at work within us. It may even sound like an impossibility, if it weren't for Paul's additional words, "for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for God's good pleasure." We are not alone in our struggle. God is at work within us. 
 
Let us pray: O Lord, may we be of the same mind that is in Christ Jesus, to let love be our chief aim in life, putting aside all selfish ambition, to work toward your good pleasure. Amen.  
Posted By: 9/24/2020 10:43:36 AM

Saturday, September 26, 2020
Reading: Mark 11:27-33 
 
Again they came to Jerusalem. As he (Jesus) was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, "By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?" - Mark 11:27-28
 
Jesus and his disciples had just entered Jerusalem. Jesus rode on a colt into the city while people lined the streets and cast their cloaks before him as well as leafy branches. They shouted, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord" Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"  The following day Jesus enters the temple, drives out the money changers and overturns their tables, declaring, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations. But you have made it into a den of robbers." At this point the chief priests and the scribes began looking for a way to kill him, but they were afraid to do so because the crowd was spell-bound by his teachings. 
 
We hear in Mark's Gospel that Jesus again enters the temple and this time the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders look for a way to trap Jesus. They question Jesus as to what authority he has to teach, heal, and chase out the money changers from the temple. Jesus turns the tables on the religious leaders by asking them a question, "Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?"  They responded to Jesus, "We do not know." Jesus says, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things." 
 
Authority can be a sticky subject. Authority is something that is given, either by someone with greater authority or by those who entrust authority to one to carry out a position or role, such as, a public office. It's when there is a misuse or abuse of power that comes with a position where it becomes problematic. 
 
Jesus' authority comes from God who has entrusted his Son to carry out his will for the world. The authority that Jesus has received is authenticated by his actions by preaching good news to the poor, curing the sick, casting out demons, raising people from the dead, and proclaiming hope to those without power.  The power that Jesus has is used for the good in order to restore people's lives, and not as others in authority, who abuse the power that they have for selfish gain. 
 
Jesus passes on that authority to his disciples, and indeed, onto us as his followers to make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God, teaching others to obey everything that Jesus had commanded about God's love for the world (Matthew 28:18-20). 
 
Let us pray:  Author of all life, you have entrusted us with the ministry of sharing the good news of your love for all people. May we humbly carry out this ministry to your glory; in Jesus' name. Amen. 
Posted By: 9/24/2020 10:01:04 AM

Friday, September 25, 2020
Reading: James 4:11-16 
 
There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor? 
- James 4:12 
 
Jesus said, "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged... Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?" (Matthew 1:1, 3). We've heard these words countless times and yet we still fall into the same trap of wanting to judge our neighbor. And there are a myriad of things of which we judge our neighbor. It isn't just about their behavior. We judge others for their social-economic status, the color of their skin, the size of their body, what side of the political fence they are on, where they live, what they do for a living, what their religion is, how intelligent they are, what school they go to, who their friends are... the list goes on.  
 
I have everything I can do, it seems, to consider the log in my own eye than to look at the speck in my neighbors' eyes. But to some extent we all judge others, especially if the other is different than ourselves.  What would happen if we would start looking at our neighbor in a different way than what we are used to? Instead of looking at the neighbor through the eyes of what is wrong with them, judging them, what would it be like if we began with accepting who are neighbor is and where they are at - taking them at face value? I'm thinking that this would open up all kinds of doors for conversation and would go a long ways toward acceptance and perhaps even to the point of loving our neighbor. 
 
This sounds rather scary, doesn't it? We go around with our guarded lives, shielding ourselves from being hurt. Fear overwhelms us and we lash out at others. But Christ has offered us an alternative world in which to live, in which fear is transformed into faith as we learn to trust one another. Let's explore this week how this may open our world up considerably if we start talking to a stranger, especially someone we might dare not engage in a conversation. Let's see how the logs in our eyes begin to fall out and we can see more clearly a sister or a brother to love. 
 
Let us pray: Open my eyes Lord to a new world of looking at my neighbor with understanding and compassion; in Jesus' name I pray. Amen.  
Posted By: 9/23/2020 2:41:10 PM

Thursday, September 24, 2020
Reading: Psalm 25:1-10 
 
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.  - Psalm 25:4
 
Have you ever been lost in the woods? I have. It was not fun. Our family was vacationing at our favorite place on Madeline Island in Wisconsin. My aunt and uncle had a full-time residence there. The island had places where we could explore. One day, my son Aaron and I decided to explore some woods. I parked the van on the gravel road. We took what looked to be a worn path into the woods. We got off the path somehow and then decided to go back to the van. I was convinced that the van was in one direction and Aaron was determined to take a different route. We split up, agreeing to meet up at the van. A while later, I finally found my way to the gravel road where I thought the van was parked. I was off by about 1/2 mile. When I finally got to the van, Aaron was leaning against it asking me what took me so long, gloating about the fact that he had a keener sense of direction than I did. 
 
Sometimes people can feel so determined they are on the right path, while all along they've strayed and have difficulty in finding their way back to safety.  It's easy to get lost in life. We listen to what we think is our inner voice of reason, but turns out not to be reason at all, only foolishness. We listen to other voices, thinking that they can help us find the right pathway in life. They end up leading us on paths that are not helpful to us but rather hurtful. 
 
The psalmist cries out to God, "Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths." I don't think that we inherently know what is the right path in life. We make bad choices. We make rash decisions. We lose our way. But when we look to God and seek the help of the Lord, we are given a way which will lead us to him whereby God always looks out for our good. God helps us to know the way through scripture. God guides us along the right pathways in life through his Son. God instructs us in the way we should go through prayer.   
 
Let us pray: Help us, O Lord, to walk in your ways, on that path that leads us back to you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.  
Posted By: 9/23/2020 11:19:13 AM

Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Reading: Matthew 18:1-5 
 
"Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."  - Matthew 18:5 
 
The disciples ask Jesus, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Jesus tells his disciples that they must become like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. My guess is that they were shocked by Jesus' response to their question. After all, children in the ancient world were considered as property and certainly were not revered as they are in our society today. That is, children were not considered as being important until they were old enough to contribute to their family and community. 
 
I'm thinking that Jesus took a child as an example as to who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven to teach the disciples a lesson. Consider what children are like. They are innocent and impressionable. They are dependent upon their parents to provide for them, care for them, and to keep them safe. For the most part, children have simple basic needs, but as we grow older we complicate life by our increasing wants and demands.  
 
Our relationship with God our Father ought to be like that between a child and a parent. Children are the greatest in the kingdom because, as a child looks upon a parent, so also, are we to be utterly dependent upon God. When we grow up, innocence is lost and our joy of living and playfulness is set aside as we become preoccupied by the cares of life making a living and all that goes along with it. When we become too wrapped up with making more to obtain more things, we no longer look at life as with the eyes of a child, with awe and wonder. 
 
Let us pray: May we look at you, O God, as little children - striving not to be great but content to simply live in your presence. Amen.  
Posted By: 9/22/2020 4:21:04 PM

Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Reading: Romans 16:17-20
 
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offences, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.  - Romans 16:17
 
Throughout the ages the church has always had to contend with dissension, even early on, as we can see in Paul's letter to the Romans. It could even be said that the church will yet continue to be fraught by dissension in the future as well. As long as the church is an institution made up of human beings this will be the case, which is a silly statement I know, but one that we still need to be reminded about. In other words, we need to hear that the church, which is a people, is imperfect. There will be fights and squabbles over this and that which will created fractions and dissension. 
 
Paul is warning against dissension which threatens the very gospel that we as a church espouse. The gospel alone should be the glue that will keep the church together, and yet, the church splinters and gets pulled apart because we allow our differences rule our heats and minds. The Good News of God's love in Jesus Christ ought to be that which unifies us and pulls us together, especially at times like this amidst a pandemic. But the sad truth is that the church remains divided as ever before and will remain so as long as we deny and neglect the very force of God's love that keeps us together. 
 
Paul warns that we cannot be naive and remain ignorant about that which is not good or that which is evil that works against the gospel. We know how sin, evil, and the powers of this world all seek to separate us from God and each other. All the while, the teaching of Christ's love will help strengthen us and uphold us as we continue to navigate through the waters of this troubling time in which we live. 
 
Let us pray: Bind us together in love, O Lord; in Jesus' name. Amen.  
 
 
Posted By: 9/21/2020 3:16:14 PM

Monday, September 21, 2020
Reading: Psalm 106:1-12
 
Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.  - Psalm 106:3 
 
What does it mean to observe or to do justice? The Hebrew word for "justice," is mishpat, which occurs over 200 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. The most basic understanding of mishpat is to treat people equitably. It means acquitting or punishing everyone on the merits of the case, regardless of race or social status. Anyone who does the same wrong should be given the same penalty. But mishpat means more that just the punishment for wrongdoing, which is retributive justice. 
 
There is also something called restorative justice. Over and over again, mishpat describes taking up the care and cause of those who are more vulnerable in society, such as widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor. These persons had no social power and often  lived at a subsistence level. Today this list would be expanded to include the refugee, the migrant worker, the homeless and many single parents and elderly people. 
 
The mishpat or justness of a society, according to the Bible , is evaluated by how it treats those who are most vulnerable. Any neglect shown to the needs of those most vulnerable is not just considered a lack of mercy but a violation of justice. Time and time again, we can see throughout the scriptures that God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so ought we. This is what it means to "do justice,"  it means being a defender of those most vulnerable in our society. 
 
Let us pray: O God, mishpat comes from your very character. May we reflect your image by doing justice. We pray this in the name of the one who embodied mishpat, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
 
 
Posted By: 9/20/2020 11:02:50 PM

Sunday, September 20, 2020
Reading: Matthew 20:1-16 
 
"So the last shall be first, and the first will be last."  - Matthew 20:16
 
Following this passage in Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, handed over to the chief priests and scribes, be condemned to death, and crucified." The Son of Man came as one to turn the world on its head as the Anointed one of God by introducing a new kind of order. Jesus came to bring down the haughty and lift up the lowly. The Son of Man came "not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
 
Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers. Some are hired to work the whole day and others to work just a few hours. In the end, all receive the same wages for a day's work. It hardly seems fair. But fairness isn't the point of the parable. The point is that the owner of the vineyard sees that there are those who are standing idle in the marketplace at all times in the day and sees that they need employment to meet their needs. Each one is given what they need.
 
The kingdom of heaven is like this. God's calls everyone to work in the vineyard, the first and the last. The tables are turned in this reign. It is not a system of merit or earnings, nor is it one that has to do with fairness. God's benevolence is poured out upon all. God calls us all to enjoy the privilege of working in the vineyard.  
 
Let us pray: We give you thanks, O God, that you have called each of us to live and to work in your reign of unmerited grace. Amen.  
Posted By: 9/18/2020 8:22:50 AM

Comments:
Guest8/20/2020 6:39:53 AM
Goes right with the hymn “We Are Called”. Now that will be going through my head for awhile. Suggestion: Could this Post a Comment be right below the daily blog every day? Otherwise you have to scroll down to the bottom of all to find it.

Guest8/20/2020 6:39:53 AM
Goes right with the hymn “We Are Called”. Now that will be going through my head for awhile. Suggestion: Could this Post a Comment be right below the daily blog every day? Otherwise you have to scroll down to the bottom of all to find it.

V
Vicky 8/19/2020 8:06:34 AM
This is so needed in our “Today’s” world for everyone. Once again Trust God and Have Faith! Thanks Pastor. (Cabin fresh air let me sleep in till 6:30 today.) 😊

Guest8/18/2020 9:38:24 AM
Thanks for your feedback Vicky. I wondered if I was posting the reflections too late for some, like yourself. I am going to try to do them a day early so I'm ahead of the game. Although, when I say this, I realize that I am already behind.

V
Vicky Anderson8/9/2020 8:29:08 AM
I will miss your devotions but I like the idea of interacting. However I wish you could post earlier as I like my spiritual time early in the morning. I was always reading your devotional a day late so I could do my devotions at 5-6 am when I wake up.

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